An avante garde food factory? An experimental design studio? How about a ramen noodle shop? It is safe to say that Mensho Ramen in Gokokuji, Tokyo is unlike any ramen bar I have ever been to.
First of all, it is easy to glue your eyes to the sophisticated interior of the bar. The walls, complete with technical introductions to the ingredients, look down upon a gleaming open kitchen. An adjoining wheat milling studio is where the noodles are freshly created each and every day. The bar is a sophisticated picture of the modern restaurant.
Yet all of this modernity belies a very simple but time honoured tradition - local foods and local flavours. Highlghting this is Mensho's culinary concept of 'Farm to Bowl Ramen'. All of the ingredients here are sourced from local suppliers throughout Japan. Okinawan sea salt, Kyushu hot spring water, and so on. And the result? Absolutely stunning.
I can safely say that I have never - ever - experienced ramen so... deliciously different. While the menu deliriously opens up for dinner, a lunchtime visit gifts you with the milled wheat tsukemen dipping ramen for 1000 yen. When the bowl is served to you, you begin to wonder if you are in an art gallery. The presentation is beautiful.
And then you start eating... The ramen here is not the usual comfort food normally associated with ramen. Almost soba-like in its appeal, there is something else here, a kind of honed joy leading to a meal that specialises in belated hypnotism. After you leave, you can't help but think that you want more.
The restaurant's sign may be feature the words 'A bowl for tomorrow' but really, it should say 'Another bowl for today, please'.